Editor’s note: This is a guest post by budding entrepreneur Anurag Gupta.
There’s no doubt the e-commerce space is exploding all across the internet. New business owners who would have otherwise never tried to open a brick-and-mortar storefront are finding tremendous success online by catering to targeted customers looking for a particular product or service. Yet even in the world of online selling, presentation is everything. E-commerce website owners can push customers away just as traditional store owners do it through poor presentation.
In order to be successful online, the business owner’s website has to meet the needs of customers in a way that invites them to return in the future AND tell others about their experiences. Creating this kind of website is no accident. It requires a working knowledge of what experts refer to as the ‘user experience’.
A friendly and positive user experience includes a number of elements that should be built into the e-commerce website. The most important elements of an e-commerce website are:
- Logical site structure and intuitive navigation
- Descriptive copy for products and services
- Speed (fast page load times)
- Mobile and responsiveness
- Payment method options.
If your site does not have these elements in place, it might very well be pushing visitors away. Do not take that chance. Address these five elements, making sure everything is in order to help you convert your traffic.
Site Structure and Navigation
Far too many e-commerce website owners put so much attention into SEO performance that they fail to consider the user experience. SEO is intended to drive new customers to a website; the user experience is intended to keep them there and prompt them to return. The most influential factors in this regard are site structure and navigation.
When you go into a brick-and-mortar store, you want to be able to find the products you are looking for quickly. Scanning the aisles for hours will send you fleeing that store more quickly than anything else. Things are no different online.
The early design stages of an e-commerce website call for planning the structure of the site in a way that is logical and well organised. Products should be divided into categories; product categories should be divided into subcategories that include things such as colour, size, etc. Each of the categories and subcategories must appear in a tree structure that is easy to use.
In terms of navigation, it needs to be intuitive. People in the West are used to moving from left to right across a page. Therefore, an intuitive menu is placed on the left side of the page with any expansion moving to the right. Advertisements for special promotions should be placed at the top of the page.
Descriptive Copy for Products
Customers shopping for products online do not want to spend time digging around for details. Therefore, your site might be pushing visitors away if it does not provide descriptive copy for the products or services on offer. What is descriptive copy? It is text that gives the customer a good idea of what the product is about so that a decision can be made quickly.
Descriptive copy includes important details the customer may need in order to make a purchase decision. It will also include terms and phrases that could be deemed ‘sales-like’ to a certain extent. Descriptive copy does not include technical specifications. Such specifications can be included on individual product pages.
Today’s internet user is not interested in visiting websites that take too long to load. This is a common problem in the e-commerce space given the heavy use of graphics and multimedia. However, this is one area that cannot be ignored. Your website is chasing away customers whenever they have to wait more than a few seconds. Yes, you read that correctly.
According to 2013 research published by hobo Internet Marketing, a 2-second load time is the maximum for a successful e-commerce site. Anything longer can result in abandonment rates as high as 87%. Ideally, the target load time should be one second or less.
This means that the front page of your e-commerce site needs to load as fast as possible. It should not be weighed down by intense graphics, embedded videos, or other types of content that can decrease page speeds. Website designers should think ‘simple, fast and effective’.
Mobile and Responsiveness
Mobile now runs the internet. That is a fact. If your website is not friendly to mobile devices, you are definitely pushing customers away. Mobile must now be a priority for all website owners and developers. Neglecting the mobile audience means neglecting the coveted demographic of millennials between the ages of 25 and 35.
Creating a mobile-friendly website involves numerous things, the most important of which is responsiveness. Web developers understand responsiveness as that combination of code and website elements that work together to ensure a website functions equally well regardless of the device being used to access it. A responsive website works flawlessly on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, and smartphone.
Multiple Payment Options
Lastly, your e-commerce website might be driving customers away if you offer only a limited number of payment options. In today’s world of online commerce, customers are looking for as many options as possible – including credit cards, debit cards, electronic funds transfers (EFTs), digital wallets (like PayPal), and emerging mobile pay solutions.
The greater the number of payment options your site offers, the larger the number of customers your site will appeal to. Some of the most adventurous e-commerce players are going so far as to accept digital currencies like Bitcoin. Digital currencies may not be for everyone, but the point is still well-made. Site owners need to offer as many payment options as they can.
In the end, the success of your e-commerce website depends on the user experience you offer customers. Creating a positive user experience that gives customers a reason to shop with you instead of going elsewhere is the goal. Failing to provide that positive experience pushes your customers away. It sends them to competitor websites who offer what yours does not.
About the author
Anurag Gupta is a budding entrepreneur with stakes in WeblinkIndia.net, an acclaimed web designing & development company, headquartered in India. He also happens to be a keen writer, sharing insights, tips, and tutorials on subjects related to the ever evolving landscape of web design and development.